Paul Oakenfold

U.K. DJ/producer/label head Paul Oakenfold has not only played records, he's broken them. According to the Guinness Book of World Records he is "The World's Most Successful Club DJ." While this has inspired its fair share of griping from peers and press worldwide, it has also inspired hundreds of thousands of kids across the U.S. to buy Oakenfold's domestic mix CDs, including the successful Tranceport series. Now Oakenfold has released his follow-up, the 2-CD set Perfecto Presents Another World (London-Sire), which introduces to America a more accurate representation of Oakenfold's combination of trance, progressive house, lite breaks and cinematic scores. A one-time chef who gave up cooking to follow his spinning dreams, Oakenfold brings his recipe for successful mixing back to Atlanta for the first time in two years.
CL: What's the most important thing you brought back to Britain after your early experiences in the music industry in New York?
Oakenfold: The American way of working hard and wanting to get on. It's different in England because everyone tends to say they're going to do this and do that and no one actually does anything, but in America people work a lot harder I think. It's that American dream I suppose they're all trying to chase.
Noting your transcontinental experience, can you cite your best gig? Was it in the U.S.?
The most interesting and unique gig I've done this year has been in America. The best gig I've done is playing Red Rocks in Denver, which is unbelievable, I mean, Red Rocks is usually a rock 'n' roll venue, and we sold 9,000 tickets for the actual gig. We sold out, and it was only me and [U.K. DJ] Aphrodite, and there was an Argentinean DJ called Hernan on the bill. And I played in Anchorage in Alaska, and that was a really, really interesting gig for me.
The sound of trance is a big, full sound. Do you think it reflects your personality, one of big ambitions?
Nah, I don't look into that. I don't look into it that deeply at all.
Then what draws you to the sound that you spin?
The emotion in the sound, the connection that you get from it.
A lot of the Goa trance singles you were releasing in the early/mid-'90s seemed more high-profile, while now it seems you're trying to reintroduce yourself mainly with mix CDs ...
No, not really actually, the last two records I've made, under the names ElementFour ["Big Brother" theme] and Planet Perfecto ["Bullet in a Gun], have both crossed over into the pop charts, and were both Top Ten pop hits, and they were both dance records. So, you know, I'm not ready to put out an album by Oakenfold. I make records under Grace, Virus, World Color, Planet Perfecto, ElementFour, Bunker. I've got six different pseudonyms. I will one day get around to it but I'm not ready for it yet.
This most recent mix, ''Another World, is the most cinematic since 1996's Perfecto Fluoro [import 2-CD mix]. Why the return to that style?
The others were kind of imports released in America. And I just wanted people to know really kind of what I'm about. I'd rather do that then just come out with another CD with all the latest tracks.
Do you think trance has changed since the mid-'90s? It seemed to be much harder.
Yeah, it used to be harder, and I think now, last year, it's all been based around a big synth riff, but I think that's out and now it's gone a bit darker, funkier, that's the direction it's going. Even breaks are sneaking in there.
Are you open to all the change? Is there room in an Oakenfold mix for 2-step garage or anything like that?
If I could fit it in, then yeah.
Rock 'n' roll groups like Led Zeppelin were really charismatic, sexual figures. Do you think electronic music holds that same visceral sexuality that rock 'n' roll can?
So you like to interact with the crowd through more than just the music?
I totally have an interaction with the crowd. Absolutely. It's important to connect with your crowd.
Speaking on rock and raves together, bands in the early '90s like Happy Mondays and Stone Roses had a real crossover where the two sounds went together really well. Do you think that will happen again, where more bands will have a dance-friendly rhythm?
All I can say is from my point of view. I mean, I just finished working on a new U2 record, which is exactly that. They've got their original version then they've asked me to mix it and I've just done a mix of it and made it funky trance.
It's hard to get an entire mix CD on the radio, so does that make you want to concentrate on releasing singles anytime soon?
When I'm ready. Because if I try to make the record I'll probably fuck it up if it's the wrong record. If you write a book tomorrow your head might not be in the space to write it, but if you should give it a month .... It's the same with making music.
Paul Oakenfold spins at midnight during Pleazure's Zodiac IV party, held Fri., Nov. 17, at the North Atlanta Trade Center, 1500 Jeurgens Court. Doors open at 9 p.m. Tickets are $30. Visit www.pleazure.net for more information.